October 25, 2006

Dawkins is on a roll

Richard Dawkins, well known as one of today's most outspoken atheist and intellectual, just released The God Delusion and has been making quite a media stir.

An interesting article he recently published, Why There Almost Certainly Is No God, makes a bold case against religion and the belief in God. As I think he hints to, this issue would've been less than newsworthy a few years back before Christian Fundamentalism started to take the spotlight in America, but today it's a hot topic.

From the article's introduction:
America, founded in secularism as a beacon of eighteenth century enlightenment, is becoming the victim of religious politics, a circumstance that would have horrified the Founding Fathers. The political ascendancy today values embryonic cells over adult people. It obsesses about gay marriage, ahead of genuinely important issues that actually make a difference to the world. It gains crucial electoral support from a religious constituency whose grip on reality is so tenuous that they expect to be 'raptured' up to heaven, leaving their clothes as empty as their minds. More extreme specimens actually long for a world war, which they identify as the 'Armageddon' that is to presage the Second Coming. Read More...

I have to say that I'm glad he's managed to present is argument in such a concise way, and present atheism in a positive manner.

I've been reading a book called Rational Mysticism recently that, among other paths of life, presents a view for atheism as a deeply spiritual practice. The belief in a supernatural deity more so tends to weakens one's independence and inhibits personal freedom, whereas the simple observance of natural life itself is much more rewarding for those who are truly dedicated.

Christians will call this a cop-out, but in my experience Western religion in general is full of, and most likely based on, intellectual laziness. I should clarify by explaining that I believe the actual teachings of Jesus, Muhammad and Moses play almost no part in Western religion.

Dawkin's arguments also remind me of Blavatsky's attack on modern Christianity and its embracing of a personal deity. Although as a follower of esoteric Buddhism, she would probably attack Dawkin's materialistic world view as she did Huxley. Simply, the studies of science and religion are logically unable to comment on each other. However, Dawkins presents and interesting case that deals with this assertion:

"Either Jesus had a father or he didn't. The question is a scientific one, and scientific evidence, if any were available, would be used to settle it. The same is true of any miracle - and the deliberate and intentional creation of the universe would have to have been the mother and father of all miracles. Either it happened or it didn't. It is a fact, one way or the other, and in our state of uncertainty we can put a probability on it - an estimate that may change as more information comes in. Humanity's best estimate of the probability of divine creation dropped steeply in 1859 when The Origin of Species was published, and it has declined steadily during the subsequent decades, as evolution consolidated itself from plausible theory in the nineteenth century to established fact today."

Anyway, it's all interesting stuff and I'm glad some form of debate on religion is finally starting to resurface in the public sphere after years of it being taboo.

Here's a quick BBC interview with him about Dawkin's book:

Stephen Colbert even had him on the show recently:


CanuckRob said...

Just found your blog, I will speond some time reading your older posts.

I have been surpised at the lack of interest in Dawkins on Candain blogs in general, on the US scene he is either venerated or viewed as the anti-christ. I attributedthis to the more secular nature of Canadian society and the relative lack of "fundies" or at least lack of fundies pushing their negative, anti-human agenda in the political forum.

However I did notice a recent news story about the religous right in Canada pushing for Harper to live up to his promise to open the gay marriage issue up for a vote in parliament.

I hope that this kind of intolerance will not be tolerated (yeah, I know that sounds dumb) by most Canadians and perhaps Dawkins book willhlep people to understand the uselessnes of religous belief as a guide to running a country or a the source for your morals.

Stu Hood said...

I don't understand why Harper would reintroduce the gay marriage thing. Seems like just an empty election promise to appease the religious right. It's just a big waste of time and money.

I just realized today too that Dawkins was the one who made the Root of All Evil documentary which I watched a while back. It's a really great watch, and it's on YouTube.