Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Richard Dawkins is a religious fanatic

Richard DawkinsAnd in case you need convincing, he has now joined the ranks of those who condemn Harry Potter, without having read a word. He feels so strongly about the issue, he's stepping down from his position at Oxford to write a book about the pernicious and abusive nature of fantasy. Unless, of course, it's Pullman's Golden Compass, which he can't help loving because of its anti-religious slant.

To be fair to the professor, he says he's not sure about the pernicious influence of fantasy, but everything else he says in the article seems to indicate his mind is pretty well made up. He will, of course, "also set out to demolish the Judeo-Christian myth."

He was on a roll, and just couldn't stop at throwing rocks at fantasy:
Do not ever call a child a Muslim child or a Christian child – that is a form of child abuse because a young child is too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or morality.

It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue, for example, about teaching about hell and torturing their minds with hell.

It's a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. I wouldn't want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it's as bad as many forms of physical abuse.

(Note the emotive words: evil, abuse, torturing, terrifyingly. Makes me wonder how I survived my childhood. Also makes me wonder how he feels about teaching children about the danger of stepping in front of moving cars. That's pretty terrifying too. Is it abusive to make children fear the consequences? I can still remember pictures from those driver ed films.)

As far as I can tell, he fits the fill-in-the-blank template of a religious extremist. Anybody care to dispute it?

For what it's worth, I do think there is a profound difference between a convinced believer and a religious extremist.

Hat tip to Jeffrey Overstreet.

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Deiter said...

Someone needs to take the position on the outer end of the margin. Dawkins is a zealot for the cause and, God knows, the religionists have plenty and many of them (the Billy Grahams, Robert Schullers, et. al.) are held in high esteem and too often given public forums to the exclusion of the oppostion. Calling him a "religious fanatic" when actually he is an anti-religious fanatic, arguing for a more science-based belief standard isn't fair, IMHO.

Thanks to Dawkins, the non-theist discussion is finally getting heard in the public discourse. Something that wasn't happening even a few years ago. Bless Richard Dawkins!

Janet said...

Just because he's a mirror image doesn't mean he isn't a faithful reproduction of the model.

And by the way, there is an important difference between someone with strongly-held beliefs and a fanatic. There are many atheists I would not qualify as fanatics, and I really don't think Billy Graham qualifies either. Fanatics of any stripe are all noticeably lacking in a generosity of spirit. Fanatics delight in purges, in narrow definitions of acceptable belief, and tend to be very harsh with anyone who doesn't have the same point of view. Scorn of the other is another important ingredient.

I stand by my assertion.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing about the way peopel think these days is, they never stop to think about ehat things actually are, and we tend tothink in Sterotypes. The poster above said its not fait to lable Richard Dawkins a Relgious Fanatic sicne he si an Anti-Religious Fanatic, who is arguing for a more science-based belief standard.

Its two problem sin one, I'm afraid. For some reason, peopelthink if you have a worldview rooted in Sicnece you cna't be relgiious. The idea of Science beign at odds with religion has certianly taken root in our cultural udnerstanding, but tis far from the truth, as many hold to devout Religious teachigns whilst beign award-winnign Scientists.

That said, the idea that Dawkisn is Anti-Religious thus not religious himself is a bit of a standard aregument, but the truth is, he is Religious.

Religion isn't beleif in a god. Thats Theism, which is the true oposite of Atheism. There are non-theistic Religions. Religion is a set of beleifs and principles that shape our udnerstanding of the world. Dawkisn surly has this, as does everyone else. His whole campaign to rid the world of Religion really amounts ot nothign mroe than a campaign to get everyone to agree with bis worldview, which means, in the end, he's really just trying to get everyone to convert to his religion.

After all, when peopel are Buddhists, they are Buddhists because they beelive Buddhism is the truth and accuratley tells thm of their world.

The same is true of a Muslim. Muslims do not think of Islam as simply an etherial otherowrldy philosophy divirced formt heir day-to-day existance but think of Islam as the truth about the world they live in.

Christians are the same, they think Christianity is reality.

In this regard, Dawkins Humanism is no different from a Religion, in that it informs him of the nature of the world in which we live and forms the basis of how he udnerstands it, just as it forms the basis of his Moral udnertsanding.

Somehow, though, dispite his Philosophy dpign exaclty the same thign in his life as a Religious persons religion does, he isn't religious. In fact his followers iwll get mad if you even compare him to a religious person.

But thee is no real difference.

It boils down to what you beleive is or isnt true and how you htink about the world and how you btink it works. Thats all Religin is in the end.

Of coruse, his lacks beelif int eh Supernatural, which many will argue makes him non-religious, but then, so do many Christian writers of old. The idea of the Supernatural, in fact, didn't even exist until the 18th century. People who argue that beelif in the Supernatural is manditory for religion do so mainly to make a distinction while overlooking the main point, that there is no difference beterrn the Philosophies held by Ahteists such as Richard Dawkisn and the Religionists, in terms of how those Philosophies function in their lives.

Of coruse the Philosophies differ, but no more radiclaly than those of other religions.

That said, Dawkins's enture attitude is oen of a bully, tryign to coerce everyone into his world view by forcing silence on the subject and by shaming his oponants. Im growign weary of the old regular claim that somehow Athiesmst are raitonal and religionists aren't, and Dawkisn has to teahc us to think for purselves whislt demolishing "The Judeo-Christian Myth" and "Religions". This really amount to him telling us what conclusion we shudl arrive at, and labling the term "Rational" on all who happen to agree with his conclusion. Those of us who do not arrive at his conclusoon are Dlusional, fools, or morons.

I find this rather off-putting and certianly irraitonal in and of itself. He doens't wantot twach us to think for ourselves, he wants to indocternate us into his own thinking, and from there instill in us a sort of self serving arrogance in that we "Think for ourselves" because we can parrot his ideas.

By the way, Im dyslexic. I know the spellign is bad.


Janet said...

I have no argument with people defending or promoting their vision of reality. Reality is out there, and we have to deal with it. Just because there are different interpretations doesn't mean that everybody is wrong.

What I do take issue with, and you've really nailed this, Zar, is the bullying, sneering attitude that Dawkins exemplifies and his refusal to see that he does indeed have a religious stance. If his viewpoint became culturally dominant, there would be shrines and temples of some kind too, just as Communist Russia had its shrines.

You must have a different definition of supernatural than I do though. Evidence of belief in the supernatural precedes the 18th century by a long shot. The Pharisees, for instance, were great believers in angels and demons. And paganism is rife with belief in spirits and such.

Other than that, I would agree with the bulk of what you said.

Anonymous said...

I’ve spoken to my fair share of Dawkins Drones, and the reason they refuse to see themselves as Religious is because of how the term is used. Religion is always used as a Derogatory term linked with irrational belief in the Supernatural and other Superstitions by them, and is blamed with holding back Science and social progress, whilst causing strife and division.

They see themselves as offering the alternative to Religion. If they admit they themselves are a Religion, they loose there entire argument since they become just one Religion out of the many. Since their entire case rests on the Supposed conflict between differing religions, this cannot be admitted without weakening their own position.

There argument rests upon the notion that all Religions exist in a state of contestation, always at odds due to differing doctrines and differing understandings about how the world works, which always causes strife and turmoil. They then insist that all Religions are based on Blind Faith; to them there is no such thing as an informed faith, much less a faith based upon reason, because they have defined Faith as belief without evidence. This definition is not actually the one used in Religious writings, and Aquinas and Augustine surly didn’t mean belief without evidence when they spoke of Faith, but its central to the Militant Atheism movement that this be the only definition allowed for the word. So what they would argue is that all Religions are primitive superstitions that came about to explain the world in pre-scientific times believed based on no evidence but tradition and emotionalism, that is irrational, and teaches us to think in irrational terms. This causes conflicts as unthinking mobs of irrational people defending irrational superstition and myth then fight each other over their fairy tales whilst implementing legislation for societies based on the same irrational and unthinking propositions that lead to a stagnant and limited society.

So they invasion themselves as rescuing the world from Irrationality, which leads to conflict, division, and limits on both individuals and society that prevent the Human Animal from achieving its full potential, and holds back all progress.

Surly you have heard them prattle on about how differing religious doctrines cause conflict because two religions do not agree. Somehow they think that if a Christian doesn’t agree with his Jewish Neighbour or his Muslim co-worker then somehow they can’t get along, and will endlessly argue and fight, which will always escalate into full scale wars. I’m not kidding when I say they insist this happens.

Neither am I exaggerating in their emphasis on the claim to reason and logic and Science. TO hear them speak they have a monopoly on them, not to mention they are the only ones capable of Critical thinking and logical thought. This is how they see themselves.

As a natural consequence, they set up a conflict between reason and religion, and see themselves as separate from religion because they use reason and logic to arrive at their conclusions and think for themselves, seeing the obvious solutions to the worlds problems.

To them, then, Religion is a phenomenon that clouds our minds with Mystical thinking and is harmful and destructive and a hindrance, and they are the full opposite of it.

Dawkins himself explains this view when he says that Religion is the opposite of Science. Science teaches us to ask questions and to think for ourselves and to look for answers, whilst religion provides us answers and asks us to accept them without examination of any evidence and to simply believe them, and thus teaches us to be content.

This is not true of course, in any regard. Religion, for instance, doesn’t actually just supply us with answers and tell us to believe them without question and without examination of the evidence. Buddhism as an example asks its students to examine all of its claims before committing to the path of enlightenment.

Christianity, which is the most maligned Religion to them, actually asks us to examine the evidence and is rooted in Historical occurrences, and isn’t reliant upon blind faith either.

The truth is, one can find reasonable and rational people committed to any major world religion one can think of. This is known to the New Atheists, but they tend to rationalise this by saying they are rational in other areas and irrational in religion and blame compartmentalisation. They seem to ignore the fact that many of those rational people are also writing rational books and rational articles and rational essays all explaining how rational their particular faith is. In fact, Dawkins, the King of Rational Inquiry, has admitted to never having studied theology at all, and seems to be unaware of such defences.

( I’ve read “The God Delusion”, and found it to be weak. Dawkins never engages in serious thought about his topic, which he just sneers at for the books length.)

One can also argue that the “Herd of Cats” hat is the New Atheism which prides itself on Individuality and free thought is actually a tightly controlled Orthodoxy that prevents too much variation.

Take a look at what they believe. None of them are allowed to believe a god exists. The best you can get is Agnostics, and even that is frowned upon in some circles. They insist that there is no evidence for he existence of God therefore all reasonable, rational people must reject God as existent. If you argue there is evidence and reason to believe God exists, you are simply mocked mercilessly and told how irrational you are. You are not permitted to believe in God to be a Freethinker. If you believe in God you must be irrational.

The same applies to all other beliefs they hold to. Even without belief in God, one can reject the specifics of Dawkins’s base Naturalism. Yet, if you reject it, Dawkins, and his followers, will insist that you are irrational for denying the obvious truth of “Scientific” rationalism.

This applies even to Atheists who are interested in Alternate Physics explanations for the world in which we live.

The same even applies to political positions. TO them, no one can be Pro-Life and rational. Rational means being pro-choice. All Logical people understand that Abortion is a woman’s right over her own body, and that there is no logical reason to oppose Abortion. If you do oppose it, you are irrational, and frequently you are accused of wanting to tell women what they want to do with their own bodies. If you explain that you hold a pro-life position because you see Abortion as Murder, you are told that a Foetus isn’t a baby and you’re an idiot for thinking it is.

Look at other “Rational” ideas they hold to. You must be a part of the current Green campaign, and believe in Global Warming. No Rational person doubts it, and even if you are an Atheist Scientist who is sceptical you are irrational.

The same applies to all other topics they wish to discuss. They hold a specific set of beliefs, and a specific moral code and a specific behavioural standard, that they wish to impose on all of society. They then insist that anyone who disagrees with it is irrational and not using logic since, in there mind, no one can be logical or rational whilst arriving at a different conclusion. TO them, it is the only logical conclusion and its obvious, and disagreement is not permitted.

For all of their vaunted talk of Free thinking and individualism, they actually have a rigidly controlled system of thought that precludes any decent. Its justified by claiming its all rooted in reason and logic. They even often claim that if you can present a logical case against any aspect of it , they’d consider it. They never do though, as I’ve seen both “Religionists” as they call them, and Atheists present cases against any number of things and be accused of being irrational, stupid, illogical, all without proper engagement of the actual points they raise. It is illogical and irrational only because it contradicts the establishment.
Which brings me o my last point on this matter, and that is the complaint they have about Religious people imposing standards on society. They all claim they want a Democracy which allows for equal and free expression of ideas by all, then they criticise peoples right to voice concerns in a Democracy if said beliefs are out of accord with the above mentioned Orthodoxy.

They even openly admit this. If you visit the National Secular Society, they mention how they are OK with Religion in homes and Churches but it should not be part of the Public Square and should never be considered when dealing in Legislation. They mean it to include even Legislation that will directly impact Churches. IE, they oppose Religious opt-outs of Anti-Discriminating laws, which would effectively force the Catholic Church to Ordain women to the Priesthood, even though this would conflict with their theological beliefs. That’s just one example. Others also exist. For instance, they want to impose upon Doctors the practice of Abortion. They aren’t satisfied that its legal, they want all Doctors to be willing to perform them. Of course even they realise this seems too draconian, so they now just advocate for making it illegal for a Doctor to not refer a Pregnant girl to a Doctor willing to abort. They claim this doesn’t violate a doctors consciousness. He can still personally refuse to perform an Abortion. But if they had their way, he’d be forced to refer the girl to someone who would. TO them this is fair because hem personally, isn’t asked to perform the abortion. What they fail to realise is that he’s still a part of the abortion by the referral and they are still asking him to violate his moral principles. Well, I shouldn’t say that, what I really mean is, they are imposing on him their moral values with a token gesture to his possible objections.

What it all amounts to is this; They want the right to impose their value system on society and force everyone else into compliance, whilst denying the right of other groups to voice concerns or even opt out in their own communities.
They eek to force Humanism onto the society, and make it the standard everyone complies with, refusing to allow dissent or objection, and enshrining it in a position above all reproach or criticism. In other words, they want it to be the state religion, and the religion from which all laws are passed and all social customs are rooted.

They just don’t want to admit it’s a Religion, because this means they are simply saying their religion is the one true Religion and all others should be subjugated, and if they do this they become Hypocrites since this is what they have complained about Religions doing, and how it limits freedom. Instead, they argue that theirs is not a Religion but is rooted in Logic and Reason, and all of their conclusions are simply the end result of thinking logically. As I said above, they think that anyone who thinks logically will automatically arrive at the conclusions they have arrived at, and there sis the Logical and practical solution. They will consider no other.

They seek to Demonise Religion whilst imposing their own ideological worldview as if it’s the only alternative, and is the only hope for humanity. They want the right to tell Religious communities what to do and how to do it. They want the right to demand social mores and standards conform to their beliefs. They want the right to set legislation along their own ideological lines. And they want to remove these rights from anyone who disagrees with them.

And this is all it amounts to, them wanting to impose on everyone else their own particular world view.

That said, on the Supernatural.

I do indeed have a different understanding of the Supernatural, which Ironically enough coincides with the “New Atheisms” vision of it.

Supernatural doesn’t mean demons and angels, it means something other than the natural world. One can conceptualise them without making them something other than part of our natural world. In fact, Philip Pullman does just this by making them composed of “dust”, and the Raelians do this by insisting they, as well as Yahweh, are really aliens from another planet. Neither of those systems ( Although one is fiction, I readily admit) see Angels and Demons and suchlike as Supernatural, because they are still bound to, and explained as a part of, our natural world, and not part of a superseding world apart from our own. The Supernatural is thus something that exists in a realm of its own, and is not part of the world we are part of, and not subject to its laws. If, however, the Angels and Demons and Spirits are part of our world, and are subject to the same laws, in what way are they Supernatural? They lack supremacy over nature of they are part of it.

Which is why I say that it’s a modern concept. The idea that Angels and Demons and Spirits do not exist in our natural world but exist apart form it in a realm all their own, that supersedes ours, is a creation of the 18th century. Prior to this, even though Angels and Spirits where said to exist, they where not envisioned as separate from our world, and separate from the laws that Govern it.

Angels, Spirits, and other beings where simply a part of our world, like Trees and Rocks where, and like Deer and Humans where. They weren’t part of another world com to ours. They where subject to the same laws of nature as well.

If you read Thomas Aquinas’s Suma Theologica, you will notice he even explains the limits of Satan and his Angels, limits which shouldn’t exist if they where Supernatural and thus not subject to our laws.

This is what I mean by it being a recent concept. The Ancients believed in Angels and Spirits, but believed they where simply a part of our world, and subject to its laws.


Janet said...

Wow, Zar, good stuff. You should start a blog. Seriously.


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